Tournament of Books discussion

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 13, 2018 10:24PM) (new)

Let's talk about it...


message 2: by Lacy (new)

Lacy (kempfme) | 1 comments This had an Agatha Christi feeling in the beginning to me.


message 3: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1060 comments I found this book gorgeously written (duh, it's Ondaatje!) but frustrating because of how much was withheld. I wanted to focus on the protagonist's mother and sister, and not have everything occluded by or filtered through the boy. Still, the book has stayed with me, and I'm glad I read it.


message 4: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Jan wrote: "I found this book gorgeously written (duh, it's Ondaatje!) but frustrating because of how much was withheld. I wanted to focus on the protagonist's mother and sister, and not have everything occlud..."

Totally agree with you Jan. I enjoyed this book just for the writing. I'm going to have to get around to reading The English Patient. I also agree with you about the mother and think that it would have been a better narrative if there was more focus on her. I probably would have liked the book to be a little longer to enable this, but I did enjoy it immensely, apart from these minor quibbles.


message 5: by Claire (new)

Claire  | 11 comments For me it was one of the highlights of the year. I didn’t care much for the English patient, but this was something elsr. It was written in a georgeous way and I felt the way it was written -with lacunes, things left unsaid, ....- matched the story, esp. the wartime. Nothing was clear then and neither was warlight...


message 6: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 159 comments There are so many things I love about this novel and one big thing I don’t. On the love side, Ondaatje’s language is as gorgeous as always. He has a way of sketching out detailed scenes and characters with a few precise sentences. It’s almost magical, and I’m drawn into his fictional world from the beginning. Further, the setting and story are compelling and suspenseful. This is actually a bit of a page-turner (which is not something I normally say about Ondaatje novels).

On the non-love side, I feel like this book doesn’t know what it wants to be. It starts as a book about two kids fending for themselves in interesting circumstances, morphs into a mother-son story, and then ends almost like a biography of an intelligence officer. It’s really very strange and ill-defined. I enjoyed the book despite this shortcoming.


message 7: by Sherri (new)

Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments This book taught me that beautiful writing is not enough for me! I've always kind of thought it was. I was wowed by the beautiful words, but so put off by the way the story was told. I thought there was so much potential here, but this ends up being one of my least favorite books of the year. I loved The English Patient, but this didn't even come close to being as good, in my opinion. I gave it two stars.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 04, 2019 12:40PM) (new)

The writing is lovely, but the narrative is too meandering and messy for my liking, and there is not nearly enough of Rachel, the more interesting sibling.


message 9: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 236 comments I read this right after reading Transcription and that worked so well for me as a pairing. So much hidden women's war work!

I agree it was more page-turning than I expect from Ondaatje, and beautifully written. I don't think I could reconstruct now what the plot actually was, but I can tell you all kinds of plot elements, and the feel of the narrative stuck with me. Which is par for the course of Ondaatje for me.


message 10: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicaxmaria) | 27 comments Sherri wrote: "This book taught me that beautiful writing is not enough for me! I've always kind of thought it was. I was wowed by the beautiful words, but so put off by the way the story was told. I thought ther..."

I just finished this and felt similarly. The writing was gorgeous, but not enough for me to think this story and the way it was told was more than 'just ok.'


message 11: by Katie (new)

Katie | 127 comments I listened to this book and that may have been my issue but I was just so bored. So many pretty words but I didn’t care at all. I had to make myself listen. I really didn’t enjoy Nathaniel but not in an unlikeable character way I just thought he was dull. I liked Transcription so much more. Perhaps if I had read Warlight I would have felt less bored.


message 12: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jessicaxmaria) | 27 comments Katie wrote: "I listened to this book and that may have been my issue but I was just so bored. So many pretty words but I didn’t care at all. I had to make myself listen. I really didn’t enjoy Nathaniel but not ..."

I listened to it as well, and agree. I found the narration particularly dull, too.


message 13: by Mike (new)

Mike | 16 comments Difficult to reconcile why strong writing, interspersed with oft mysterious characters, and a plot outline that resembles a thriller, resulted in such a plodding and dull read for me. Perhaps additional details as to the illicitness or overall importance of the risks, contemporaneous with actions taken by the characters, may have enhanced the plot. It also seemed many compelling relationships were not fully developed or explored well enough. This may be one of those novels I go back and re-read at a later time and appreciate more.


message 14: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 108 comments Tina wrote: "The writing is lovely, but the narrative is too meandering and messy for my liking."

Tina you've exactly summed up how I've felt while reading every Ondaatje book.


message 15: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 748 comments Me, too.


message 16: by Gaby (new)

Gaby | 29 comments Ditto. DNF. Could not finish even though I was a third of the way through. I’m sad and disappointed because I had such high hopes. Lived The English Patient.


message 17: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 452 comments Gaby wrote: "Ditto. DNF. Could not finish even though I was a third of the way through. I’m sad and disappointed because I had such high hopes. Lived The English Patient."

That's interesting. I disliked The English Patient and so was surprised to like Warlight as much as I did. I liked the hazy, not sure what is real, what is supposition feel of it.


message 18: by Ruthiella (last edited Jan 22, 2019 11:11AM) (new)

Ruthiella | 342 comments Alison wrote: "That's interesting. I disliked The English Patient and so was surprised to like Warlight as much as I did. I liked the hazy, not sure what is real, what is supposition feel of it"

I've not read The English Patient (saw the movie though) but Ondaatje's The Cat's Table also had the same sort of hazy, half remembered, half forgotten feel to it and I really enjoyed that style in both books. I look forward to trying his other works in the future


message 19: by Dustin (new)

Dustin (dusty3302) | 30 comments My favorite paragraph:

"The shade of his one large mulberry tree. We used to work mostly in vigorous sunlight, so now it is the shade I think of, not the tree. Just its symmetrical dark existence, and its depth and silence, where he talked to me long and lazily about his early days, until it was time to go back to wheelbarrows and hoes. The breeze lifted itself over the shallow hill and entered what felt like our dark room, rustling against us. Could have stayed there forever, under that mulberry. The ants in the grass climbing their green towers."



Interesting story. I just finished it a few minutes ago and I think I will need a couple days to fully decide how I felt about it. Ruthiella, I like how you described it. "Sort of hazy, half remembered, half forgotten feel to it." I would agree with that assessment.

The slice of life, nothing super dramatic, type of story isn't generally my preference, but the writing was so soothing to me that it may have overridden any concerns I had with the plot.


message 20: by Peggy (new)

Peggy | 171 comments Ugh this book. I agree with whomever called it "plodding" above. There were flashes of good writing but every plot point and character is so distant and unknowable--there were no ways in for me as a reader. The "reveal" at the end made me shrug.

And in my review I called Nathaniel an "oatmeal of a character." Just nothing. This would have been better from Rachel's perspective, who flashed real emotions when we were allowed to see her. A totally frustrating read on every level.


message 21: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I just started this and am sooo bored. I came here in the hopes that the comments would give me hope. Needless to say, I am not encouraged. Oh well, I will continue. The writing is beautiful and I am somewhat intrigued so hopefully that will be enough to get me through.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments I just finished this one last night, and I enjoyed it very much while I was reading it, and now that I look back I think I perhaps loved it. Ondaatje's grounded details of place and objects (the unforgettable ribbon, rivers, buildings, landscape, the mulberry tree) combined with the hazy (a perfect word, Ruthiella!) tenuous nature of the recollection about what actually happened in his childhood -- it worked perfectly for me as an evocation of the actual nature of memory, how the things that stick are not necessarily the events (the 'plot' as it were) but moments, places, objects themselves, and how as we age we see the connections we could not see in our younger days -- not just the connections in our own lives but the ways our lives connect to the world, like the other uses of the pool Agnes dives into, and the reasons the Darter knows the streets he knows.

I did wonder, plot-wise, if Nathaniel's (view spoiler)

I can see how this book would really not be for everyone, but yes, I think I loved it.


message 23: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 342 comments The cat incident definitely happened either just before the war or during. Nathaniel was a small child and when the book opens in 1946 or 1945 he is already 15 I think.


message 24: by Bryn (Plus Others) (last edited Feb 24, 2019 08:42PM) (new)

Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 94 comments Ruthiella, that is what I thought -- so it is an interesting lacuna for me, just where did (view spoiler)

I like it because I feel it upholds the integrity of the book in a way that having clear answers about the past does not for me.


message 25: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Oertel | 843 comments Reading these comments makes me feel better about my experience with the book. I listened to the audio version and found it hard to connect. I liked most of the individual sentences or paragraphs that I heard (the beautiful writing referenced above) but my mind would wander somewhere else more often than usual.

I also agree that Rachel's perspective would have been more interesting.


message 26: by Adam (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) I am 50 pages in and really not feeling this one, my first by this author.

If the first 50 pages didn’t wow me, would you guys think that’s a pretty good indication of how I’ll feel about the whole?


message 27: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 452 comments Adam wrote: "I am 50 pages in and really not feeling this one, my first by this author.

If the first 50 pages didn’t wow me, would you guys think that’s a pretty good indication of how I’ll feel about the whole?"


I think that if the writing didn't get to you in those first 50 pages, this isn't perhaps a book you'll love. And I say that as someone who loved this book - but I loved it from the first beautifully-crafted sentences. So if it isn't speaking to you, go read something else. There are plenty of books you'll love out there.


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